Freedom of Information

Institute for Justice v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

December 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the Illinois Supreme Court in a state Freedom of Information Act case concerning the retroactive application of a new exemption enacted during the pendency of the case. The brief argues that (1) a rule permitting the retroactive application of new FOIA exemptions would undermine the well-established public policy of Illinois in favor of transparency, and (2) given the important interests at stake the Court should adopt a clear-statement rule for all amendments to FOIA.

The Privacy Act

Amid the passage of open meetings and open records laws, the federal government also recognized a citizen’s right to avoid improper distribution of data it keeps about them. The 1974 Privacy Act also allows citizens to find out what information the government keeps on them, primarily in order to ensure its accuracy.

How the Privacy Act works

The Privacy Act, like FOIA, is relatively simple to use. Identify the agency that you think may have records about you — such as the FBI, CIA or IRS. Send a request letter giving the agency enough information so it can be sure of your identity and know which files to search. (See the sample letter.)

Letter to Governor Cuomo re FOIL Bill A2750A

October 19, 2017

The Reporters Committee and 33 newsmedia organizations sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of Bill No. A2750A. The bill would amend New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") to strengthen its fee-recovery provision.

Centro de Periodismo Investigativo v. Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico

October 16, 2017

RCFP filed an amicus brief in the District of Puerto Rico in support of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI), an investigative journalism organization. CPI brought suit seeking records and information from the government oversight board created by Congress to manage the territory's finances after Puerto Rico's financial crisis last year. The board moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal statute creating the board supersedes Puerto Rico's public records laws. RCFP's amicus brief argues that the statute does not deprive Puerto Ricans of their rights of access and that the board's motion to dismiss should be denied.

We're seeking input for updates to iFOIA

Demi Vitkute | Freedom of Information | September 7, 2017
September 7, 2017
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is conducting a survey in advance of planned improvements to iFOIA, its free online system for creating, sending, and tracking federal and state freedom of information requests. 
 
The survey seeks feedback on improvements to existing features as well as input on what new features should be introduced, such as fax submission option for government agencies that do not (or no longer) accept requests via email.
 

Pasadena Police Officers Assoc. v. City of Pasadena, Los Angeles Times

July 17, 2017

After the Los Angeles Times filed a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request for a report regarding an officer-involved shooting, the police officers' union filed a reverse-CPRA lawsuit to prevent the release of the report. Despite obtaining the release of almost the entirety of the report, the Times was awarded only a fraction of its attorneys' fees. The newspaper appealed to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. RCFP, CNPA, and 14 other media organizations argued that reverse-CPRA lawsuits are contrary to both the language and intent of the CPRA and undermine the CPRA's fundamental purpose to provide public access to government records. However, even assuming that reverse-CPRA actions should be permitted in certain circumstances, requesters must be afforded the same protections in reverse-CPRA actions that they are entitled to in any other action brought under the CPRA.

LAPD Bodycam Policy Comments

May 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments to the Los Angeles Police Commission concerning the development of a policy for releasing body-worn camera (BWC or bodycam) videos of "critical incidents," such as such as when an individual dies in police custody. The comments highlighted the importance of compliance with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and urged videos of critical incidents to be proactively released to the press and the public.

Comments on proposed OGIS regulations

February 27, 2017

The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed regulations issued by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) on its mediation program. The comments argued that (1) the scope of the proposed rule issued by OGIS was inadequate, and should be revised to cover all of its activities, and (2) that the proposed rule contained unwarranted and unacceptable confidentiality provisions that should be removed.

Release to One, Release to All Comments

December 22, 2016

The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice regarding its implementation of a "Release to One, Release to All" policy for the federal Freedom of Information Act. The comments were based on an RCFP survey of journalists concerning various aspects of posting records responsive to FOIA requests online.

Grabell v. NYPD

August 26, 2016

The Reporters Committee and 14 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of a motion by Michael Grabell, a reporter for ProPublica, for the New York Court of Appeals to hear a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) case concerning access to records on the NYPD's x-ray van (or Z Backscatter Vans) program. The amicus brief argued that the intermediate appellate court's decision below (1) ignored publicly available information about ZBVs and failed to order the release of segregable information, and (2) jeopardized the ability of FOIL to serve as an effective tool for public oversight of law enforcement activities.